August in the metro DC area where I live is the best month of all. Congress is in recess as our elected officials return home for their annual R&R. All of the government support businesses are virtually shut down. Vacations abound as is evidenced by all the “out of the office” replies I get to my emails. The pace slows, the traffic eases and for a scant few weeks my town feels like a laid back relaxed haven.
As September looms, I am making plans to preserve this more sane approach to life. How can I resist the pull of the ever-present business crisis treadmill? Over the years, I’ve developed some tricks and tools to keep my pace at moderate speed. Let me share a few of these with you so that you can spend more time looking at beautiful fall foliage and less with your face in a mobile device.
Enjoy the warmth and sunshine while it lasts!
— AliceAlice Waagen, PhD Founder, www.workforcelearning.com Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
TIME TO SLOW DOWN
By Dr. Alice Waagen
I begin each day by walking my dog through the sleepy streets of my suburban neighborhood. I am an early riser and enjoy the predawn quiet. Few people are out and Sophie the German Shepherd and I relish the sound of birdsong and the dim, greying light.
One morning my reverie was disturbed by the arrival of bright yellow signs at the curb. The main road through my subdivision in northern Virginia sometimes feels like a NASCAR speedway and Fairfax County planted these admonishments to get drivers to ease up a bit. This morning was preceding a particularly busy day. As I reviewed all that I needed to get done by evening, my pace quickened. Gone was the bird’s morning reveille as I urged Sophie to hurry up.
The SLOW DOWN message stopped me in my tracks. This message was not just for the motorized traveler. It spoke directly to me: “SLOW DOWN, breathe, listen to nature and enjoy the day, don’t just plow through it to get it over.”
I now look for these yellow messages when I walk or drive. I see them on other streets; they serve as a daily reminder to be conscious of the speed at which I travel. I am also using them to monitor my mental speed to stay in a “safe” zone of careful, measured thought.
Resisting the urge to speed is not easy. Here are my top 5 tips to help you stay in the slow lane.
- Reality Check your Plan. I spend time every Friday listing the tasks and activities I need to complete the next week. I then match the list against my calendar. Do I have adequate time to get things done without speed and sloppiness? If not, I whittle it down until time and expectations match up. It is not enough to just make a To Do list. You need to get a reality check by matching the list to your calendar.
- Mid-Week Check-in. Book 30 minutes every Wednesday to sit back and reflect on the week thus far. Am I on target with my schedule and plan? Ahead? Behind? No plan can ever account for interruptions and unplanned events. Reset expectations and To Do’s to reflect how the week is really unfolding.
- Review and Revise Commitments. Periodically review ongoing commitments, especially business organization and professional association meetings. What is your purpose in attending these events? Are they producing tangible value for you? If not, drop out.
- Color Code your Calendar. I use the category color feature in Outlook to code every entry in my calendar into one of 6 categories. I can then tell at a glance where I am spending my time. I use one color code for my volunteer work. I love my volunteer activities and if I am not careful, I’ll book way too many hours here. When time gets tight, I will trim here first.
- Avoid Digital Addiction. Our mobile devices can suck time at an alarming rate while producing little of value. Turn off alarms and alerts, silence the darn things and exist in the real world at least 50% of your waking hours. Delay responding to emails and texts. Manage the pace of your communication to move from instant to respectfully delayed.
My mantra for going into the fall and the craziness of fourth quarter: SLOW DOWN. I have made a large reprint of my SLOW DOWN photograph and have it hanging in my office as a reminder of the glorious pace this summer. You are welcome to do the same!